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It's known that blaster bolts in Star Wars aren't instantaneous/speed-of-light - they are actually pretty slow (supposedly, slower than a high-velocity bullet).

Is there an official canon speed for how fast a blaster bolt travels?

I'm looking for one or both of:

  • Highest level canon calculations (presumably from G-canon, e.g. someone literally timing movie times and exact distances and calculating the speed; or word-of-god from Lucas or someone else involved in movie production).

  • and/or explicit mention of speed value in the non-movie canon (highest one available).

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Possibly slower than a regular bullet, at least E-11 blaster rifle bolts. –  Donmax May 8 '12 at 5:15

3 Answers 3

Pretty much the only sort of technical commentaries of things like this (that I know of) come from here. Most of the analysis comes from frame-by-frame analysis of the movies, along with extrapolations from real world physics.

His take on it is this:

There is no sure answer in terms of real life science; so far we can only place constraints on the nature of the beam by making careful observations about the filmed behaviour. The shots create light which is emitted sideways, otherwise the bolts would not be seen. The visible bolts appear to travel at various velocities, which usually appear to be slower than the speed of light. However there is an invisible component of the beam which often propagates far ahead of the visible bolt. The invisible forerunner is probably an aspect of the fundamental beam itself, and the luminosity of the bolt is a side-effect. The forerunner beam is known to damage targets before the visible bolts arrive, and this component of the shot may actually propagate at lightspeed.

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Not accepting yet as I'd really like a better answer, but if none forthcoming in a month or so, will accept your answer. Thanks! –  DVK May 8 '12 at 18:38

The blaster bolt is not made out of pure light. It contains plasma, which has mass. If it would travel at light speed, it would require infinite energy to accelerate (a blaster does not have a hyperdrive), according to general relativity.

The only reliable answer you can get is by looking at the canon. By calculating distance with the time taken for the blaster shot to travel, most calculations have arrived at around 150m/sec.

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Here is a link with the speed analysis: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/05/star-wars-blaster-speed/

Relevant excerpt follows:

First, let me comment on the ground base’s blaster shots. The average for these things is just 34.9 m/s (78 mph). This is in the ballpark of a baseball pitch. Compare this to the speed of a Nerf gun bullet at about 10 m/s.

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